As signing day 2013 approaches, the list of potential prospects narrows quickly as it becomes put up or shut up time for prospects with potential grade or test score issues. You also have coaches putting on the full court press, some new and some old. Player’s drop off the list with frequency at this time of year and new names tend to pop up quickly as coaches see the handwriting on the wall for some recruits and seek to fill in some last minute spots or needs. For the Gators, the last week has been a little of each.
They are currently sitting on 27 commitments in this class with 8 early entry’s that count back to last season. Head coach Will Muschamp announced this week that three more players will be leaving the program, WR Stephen Alli and DE Kedric johsnon who are graduating and will be moving on, and redshirt freshman OG Tommy Jordan, who has applied for a medical hardship due to a chronic shoulder condition that has prevented him from playing football since he arrived at Florida. By my calculation this means the Gators can likely take as many as 33 in this class. At one point it appeared they may be able to do just that, but with recent developments it looks as though that will not happen. In fact, it appears as if the Gators may finish with no more than three players at best.
Right now the biggest position of need is across the defensive line where the Gators currently have 5 players committed but only one of which, Jordan Sherit, is considered a true defensive end. With Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler returning as true sophomores, it isn’t imperative they bring in someone who can play right away, Sherit will likely redshirt and put on some bulk, for depth and class separation the staff really wants at least one more defensive end. In this case, they want someone who can play the Buck position, a combination rush end/outside linebacker position.
The top guy on their board for a while has been four star Elijah Daniel. He has been held back from making an official visit for a long time due to grade issues but had an official visit scheduled for the last weekend before signing day. That visit has been cancelled apparently because he didn’t get his grades improved enough. Now it appears he has committed to Ole Miss. Florida has certain academic standards that are somewhat tougher than many other SEC schools and this is not the first time that has stopped a recruit that Florida was after and certainly won’t be the last.
With Daniel off the board, the staff has turned up the heat on the nation’s number one rated defensive end and number one overall recruit Robert Nkemdiche. He took an official visit to Florida this weekend and by all accounts had a great time. While on his trip he tweeted,
“In Florida it’s lavish over here… I’m digging this.”
and, “I like these people over here good people Florida good impression.”
Of course, that’s probably recruit speak. What else is he going to say? It’s good to know, however, that the staff put the full court press on for Nkemdiche this weekend. He’s still a long shot at this point but if they could bring him in it would be a huge coup and would resoundingly make up for the loss of Daniel.
According to a report by ESPN Recruiting Nation, he has at least moved Florida into his top three. Previously, he had only a top two of Ole Miss and LSU. Ole Miss, where his brother is a starting linebacker, has long been where he is expected to sign, and LSU is a likely destination for his best friend and teammate David Kamarra. With the announcement of Florida being in the mix, the Gators at least have a shot, albeit a long shot.
“No school has been kicked down or anything, but I just have to see the other schools and compare them,” Nkemdiche told the ESPN recruiting website. “Florida, Ole Miss and LSU are battling for the top spot.”
Is he simply building signing day drama? Are the Gators and LSU merely a hat on the table for a televised commitment ceremony? Most likely but it’s good to know the Gators have the drawing power to pull in a late visit and consideration from the consensus top recruit in the country.
At wide receiver, one of the biggest team needs in this recruiting cycle, the Gators currently have five players committed, four wideouts and one slot guy. The Gators appear to be targeting one more receiver for this cycle and it appears they are seeking a true track style speed guy who can run the jet sweep, return kicks, and stretch the field vertically.
Their original target has been James Clark. It had been expected that he would commit to the Gators as soon as he received his offer which happened a few weeks ago. He did not commit, however, and since has been taking trips to Nebraska, and this past weekend to Clemson. Previously, he visited Northwestern and Purdue. His last visit, recruits only get five, has been scheduled for the upcoming weekend to Florida. However, Urban Meyer has been trying to get him to skip that Florida visit and instead trip to Ohio State. Subsequently, his Florida visit has been put on hold. Some think he may be leaning to Clemson, some think he’s strongly considering OSU. If he does not make the official visit to Florida he will not be in this class. Period.
With Clark’s stock declining by the day, the staff has started to turn up the heat on two other players: Kermit Whitfield and Ryan Timmons. Whitfield, a legitimate sub 4.4 forty guy, has been committed to FSU since last August but has recently decided to look around at other options. Timmons, from Frankfort, Kentucky, is another speed merchant who the Gators like in this slot should they lose out on Clark. Check out Timmons highlights here. Keep in mind that Clark is the guy that they really want, but they are hedging their bet at the likelihood that Clark chooses to go elsewhere.
At linebacker, the Gators appear set with 5 players committed, two outside linebackers and three inside linebackers. However, middle linebacker James Hearns, one of the more underrated prospects in this class, appears to once again be looking around at other schools. He has been making noise about visiting other schools for a long while. He was expected to trip to Ohio State but backed out of that. At that point it appeared he was solid to the Gators.
However, this past weekend he made a surprise visit to Auburn and has another trip scheduled to Kentucky this upcoming weekend. When a recruit starts making surprise visits this late in the process it usually means one thing: he doesn’t have the grades to make it into this class. There are other issues that creep up from time to time that force a player to look around, but in this case the consensus opinion is that he won’t qualify. Coaches, of course, cannot comment on potential recruits per NCAA rules and Hearns has been tight-lipped but suffice it to say, he likely will not be in this class come signing day. It is not apparent that the staff will recruit anybody to replace Hearns should he not make it into the class. The thought process is they like who they have and there’s no need to reach here.
The other position they are targeting is cornerback. They have the top rated corner and the number three overall recruit in the ESPN rankings committed in Vernon Hargreaves III. They want to add one more. With Shaq Wiggins announcing he wouldn’t take any more visits and was 100% committed to Georgia, and Mackensie Alexander a long, long shot, the staff is down to one: USC commit Jalen Ramsey. He has been an interesting story, long committed to USC yet long flirting with Florida. With all the turmoil at USC with the disappointing season, lots of players leaving early, commits jumping ship, and the thought that head coach Lane Kiffin being on a short leash, many feel he will not actually sign with the Trojans regardless of what he says between now and signing day. Some think distance could be an issue for him. Regardless, if he does not actually sign with USC, the Gators would be the odds on favorite to ink his LOI. Last week, Florida Gator commit and high school teammate Max Staver sent out an ominous tweet to which he quickly backtracked and then deleted. Here was his tweet:
Of course, that was immediately translated by those covering recruiting for the Gator pay sites that it meant Ramsey, who was in the middle of an in-home visit by the Gator staff, was going to commit. The next day Ramsey’s dad came out and apparently sent a text,
“Jalen has not flipped!! Max Staver doesn’t know anything about Jalen, they were teammates not friends. I’ll say it again, so you won’t keep calling us. IF YOU DIDN’T HEAR IT FROM JALEN IT ISN’T TRUE. We are getting tired of outsiders trying to speak for us. Remember this, Ballers play the game, pretenders tweet.”
So the soap opera that is recruiting rolls along. Will Ramsey, who took his official to USC this past weekend, indeed flip to the Gators. Stay tuned.
One other player that has been on the Gators board for a little while is fullback Kennard Swanson. He had been committed to LSU but backed out a month ago making statements to the effect that he was going to go to Florida. However, he has never had a committable offer from the Gators. The staff likes him and has him in a holding pattern at this point. He was in Gainesville for an official visit this past weekend but it appears the staff is still holding off on letting him commit. At first, the thought was that he might be a victim of numbers as the Gators had a lot of likely guys that had yet to commit. As more of those drop off, however, it appears the number crunch may not be the problem at all. Grades could likely be a factor here. Either way, if Swanson makes it into this class it will likely be a signing day decision.
So as the recruiting season winds down and players drop off the board like flies and new names pop up last minute, keep this in mind. The Gators have a top rated class right now if they do not add anyone else. The staff would certainly like to add a speed receiver, a defensive end, and another cornerback. These are all luxuries and necessary for numbers purposes but not absolutely necessary. The staff will only add guys that they truly feel will be able to contribute. They are not going to reach at any position. Next season’s recruiting cycle, particularly in Florida, is loaded up so as important as it is to get the numbers back up to the 85 scholarships the NCAA allows, they will be satisfied leaving a few extra scholly’s for the next recruiting cycle if they don’t get the right ones this time.